Dank And Co. Designer Jake Danklefs Takes Us Inside His Unique Sneakers For March Madness


Sneakers are serious business in the world of basketball, and there aren’t many people that know how to take sneakers to the next level better than Jake Danklefs. The founder of Dank and Co. is revered in the world of footwear for some of his unique designs on kicks, transforming them from what you expect when you think of a shoe to a 1-of-1 customization for its owner.

Between that and the fact that Danklefs is based out of San Antonio — Dank and Co. proudly declares its products are handmade in Texas — it only made sense for Corona to approach him about designing 12 pairs of special, Corona x University of Texas basketball sneakers for March Madness. Danklefs took pairs of Jordan 3s and designed them to incorporate the colors and logos for both the beer and the school.

Dime sat down with Danklefs to discuss his love of designing sneakers and his partnership with Corona. We also learned how he made what was a rather unique color scheme work, and his favorite pair of kicks that he’s designed.

Dime: With the Corona x Texas kicks, how did this partnership come about?

Jake Danklefs: We connected, and for me it made complete sense. Not only am I a fan of their beer, but I embody that relaxing Corona lifestyle synonymous with the brand day-in-and-day out. It’s definitely been a pleasure working with their team to bring this custom shoe to life.

These sneakers are interesting to me because the color palate seems like it shouldn’t work, but it does. Did you go into this kind of dreading mixing bunt orange with the blue and yellow of Corona? When did it click that you could make this work?

When Corona came to me with the idea, I was so focused on how I could bring the partnership to life and create a natural tie to the “Find your beach” mindset that I wasn’t even phased by the color palate. Luckily, it kind of clicked for me early in the process, and from there I let my imagination run wild.

What’s going to end up happening with these? Gonna guess we’re not going to see the Longhorns wearing these onto the court or anything like that.

No, the team won’t be wearing the customs on the court. The 12 pairs of shoes I created are going to be given to 12 different consumers via a sweepstakes that will allow them to showcase their fandom in a fun way touting their favorite beer and team. As Texas fights to make the tournament on the court, it can be a stressful time for Longhorn fans off the court, so I developed these in part to remind them of the relaxing vibes Corona is known for that they’ll need during the stretch run.

Where does the interest in customizing sneakers stem from?

My Mom had me interested in art at a very very young age and I took right to it. My brother is 10 years older than me and by the time he was like 15 years old, he already was rocking some pretty cool stuff. I had taken a notice and for whatever reason got obsessed with sneakers and design by the time I was like 7 years old. If you talk to any of my friends I grew up with, they will tell you, from like 5th grade on I was always drawing sneakers and doodling and stuff.

Funny story. In 6th grade, first day, I met this kid Jeff in one my classes. Jeff soon became a good friend and is still one of my closest friends. But that day in 1996, I saw he was wearing a pair of concord Jordan XIs, and though I was totally into Penny Hardaway, I still respected the hell out Jordan’s crazy new design. The next day he wore the black and red pair. I was shook! So the day after that, I actually brought a military shine sponge with me to school to polish the patent leather on his shoes. I did the remainder of the year. To this day, I keep one in reach in my office. Every pair of XIs that come through gets the military shine.

What is it about sneakers that makes them so fun to design that you can’t get with, say, a canvas that hangs on a wall?

Well before I was customizing sneakers, I was actually painting portraits of shoes on a canvas. People really were into them and I was selling them on NIKETALK and other shoe forums. I soon realized that I could use a sneaker as my canvas. It started by making what I called “poorman versions” of shoes that I couldn’t afford. Its grown to be so much more than that now but that’s still the root of it.

What’s your favorite pair you’ve ever designed? What’s the first pair you designed that made you go “I can do this for a living and do a really great job”? To both of those, why?

My favorite pair I have ever designed was actually an Air 180 inspired by a shoe that was in the show Entourage. It was made to be given away at a sneaker show here in San Antonio so a lot of the design had inside meaning to San Antonio and the group of guys I put the show on with; we made a great box for it and everything. It wasn’t really the first pair that made me realize I could do it for a living, it was my boss at the time. He mentioned that I was making just as much money doing shoe stuff as I was at my full time job, so if I had an extra 40 plus hours a week to put towards shoes and was disciplined, a lot could come of it.


Along those lines, I know you’ve designed custom sneakers for some famous people. Is there one story from working with someone prominent that sticks out above the rest?

I was doing some work with an agency doing stuff for adidas last year and the person heading that operation asked me a question. He said, “Ok, so you have done shoes for all kinds of people now – Lebron, Jay Z, etc… is there anyone that you just really want to make shoe for?” I immediately said, “Gary Vaynerchuk.” He has been a huge inspiration to me as a person running a small business centered around social media, branding and marketing. Turns out the gentleman’s girlfriend works for Gary. He made the connection and me and Rich Franklin, another incredible custom shoe designer, teamed up to make an incredible pair for him inspired by his love for the New York Jets.

What’s your creative process like? How many designs do you go through for, say, one pair of sneakers before coming to a final product?

I usually figure out what the client is shooting for and then explode and present a bunch of ideas and things that the client didn’t even know was possible. I always try to incorporate something I have never done before, too. You saw that in the Corona custom shoe I just created. It’s the only way you can push the envelope and progress as an artist. Sometimes you can nail a design on the first try, and usually that’s OK with the average collector or sneakerhead, but with the corporate work, there is definitely a lot riding on the project and sometimes takes as many as five revisions.

How’d you settle on using a pair of 3s to design these?

First thing you look for, especially when you are doing quite a few shoes, is seeing what is readily available. We wanted to pick a shoe that the public generally loves and that has ample real estate for branding. The Jordan 3 fits the bill. Also, we found a great blank white base with Pure Money Jordan 3 being available and I think it came out incredible. When you look at the colors for Corona and Texas, you might question it, but the color blocking and telling the “Find your Beach” story came together quite naturally for me.